So I completed my first road race using a road bike yesterday. Compared to DualX, the race was much easier seeing as I was able to drive home after the race.
Organization and general issues
The race organization was excellent. Getting into the event and finding a parking spot was easy, as was leaving the event. The distance between the parking and the start line was tarred so it was pretty easy to hop on your bike and ride to the start line. The starting pens were clearly marked off and constant announcements were made alerting people when they should start approaching the start pens and to which pens they should enter. The biggest issue at these kinds of events (especially ones of this size) is finding a toilet in time. Thankfully not only was the usual porta potties available, but the stadiums facilities were also available for use which meant there was no queuing at all. I think this was the first time I have ever attended a race where there was no queue and it was amazing :P. In hindsight, I didn’t actually encounter any post race issues at that event.
The race did not start with the cyclist riding straight out of the pens, instead, the organizers would empty each pen onto the road which was a 100m or so away from the pens and gave the rides a bit more space to launch from. Getting out of the pens and onto the road leading to the start line was mostly uneventful, except for someone that managed to fall down before the starting gun was even fired while everyone was standing still.
I hung back on purpose and tried to find a mostly out of the way spot in the bunch since I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. In hindsight, this was a horrible decision and I should have tried to get as close to the front as possible. Since I had never participated in a road race before, I had no seeding which meant that I was pretty far in the back. This meant that I was constantly blocked by little groups of riders that felt as if they were not moving. This was thankfully only really an issue in roughly the first 5km’s, as after that the group started to thin out enough that I could overtake at will.
I had really underestimated my riding pace so before the race I expected that I would be averaging 20-22km/h over the race. In the end on most of the flats and downhills which was mostly the first half of the race, I averaged 31km/h, while my overall average for the race (including the climbs) was 28km/h (this is based on my personal time and excludes the pause for my flat tire).
Just before the first water point I hit a bump that I am pretty sure caused me to get a pinch flat. Because I have never gotten a puncture in any of my previous races, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling on the bike was a bad road or a puncture. So I stopped at the water point and topped up the air in the tire. In hindsight I should have replaced the tire at this point as I may have had some assistance. I had not travelled over a kilometre or so when I started to get the same feedback from the bike, at this point I was fairly certain that it was a puncture and had to pull over as soon as I could find some clear ground on the side of the road. Seeing as I had almost zero experience changing the tire in the middle of a race, the change ended up costing me way too much time (almost 8 minutes). This was mostly due to me double checking if I actually needed to change the tube and then finally the effort required to get the tube in and the tire closed.
The race was mostly uneventful after this, which meant that I could focus on trying to push out as much power as possible without putting me into the zone where I start cramping. This was pretty much what I ended up doing after the puncture as I tried as hard as possible to catch up to the people that had passed me while I was busy with my repair. Over the next 15mins I easily caught up with a number of people that I had spotted previously and slowly started getting back to the point where I was attacking new riders on a regular basis.
If there is one thing that I absolutely loved about the race it was that I was constantly attacking, which happened on both the down-hills as well as the up hills (which I did not expect would happen). There were roughly two other riders that I encountered that were able to pace me and not have me feel like I was not moving. Sadly I lost the first rider when I stopped at the water point to refill and lost the other rider on one of the longer up-hills where she slowed a bit.
It was also quite interesting to see the difference between the different types of riders in the race. In my group, I mostly encountered riders that were just trying to get to the end of the race (I thought this is the group I would be in as well). The other group in the short race consisted of smaller bunches of more experienced riders which would occasionally slingshot me in the coolest manner. Towards the end of the race I encountered the longer group of fast riders who would always ride as a bunch (who I could also never keep up with), this is in comparison to the larger group of short distance cyclist who never rode as group or drafted at all and instead preferred to ride side by side which meant they were always working themselves to death for no good reason.
In the end this was a great race to start the year on. I now really want to find a group to train with since it was pretty clear that I am not pushing myself nearly hard enough on my weekend rides. I left the race feeling like I gave it my all and would gladly do it again. The pain that came after my recovery sleep wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but still appeared in the form of major neck tension and soreness in my joints.
The statistics from my race can be found here : http://www.movescount.com/moves/move52977351